Ready

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Spring is here.  The days are getting longer, trees are showing their buds, crocuses are popping up.

Most important, preseason baseball is in full swing.  Literally.

This is my favorite time of the year and I can’t wait for the season to start.  Adding to the anticipation is the excellent showing of the USA in the World Baseball Classic, one of the best tournaments I have witnessed to date.  So excited am I about the new season that the Cardinal wear is already out of the closet.20170322_081334

If my Cub fan friends see that last sentence, there will be sarcasm in the air.

Dumpster Diving

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No, that’s not a picture of my new luxury condo.  I did check it several times to make sure no families had moved in, just in case.

That sucker was as big as a large RV.  Several neighbors and family members quipped that ther was no possible way that I could fill a dumpster that large.  They scoffed at me for my foolish spending, saying that I could have spent far less for a smaller container, more appropriate to my needs.  Perhaps the sparse accumulation of snow that fell the day the dumpster was delivered was an indication of the corresponding accumulation of junk over the years we have occupied our property.  23 years of accumulation, in a house occupied by my hoarding missionary’s daughter of a spouse — she throws away nothing, including empty boxes just in case something needs to be returned to the store.  In her defense, much of what she had growing up came out of donation boxes, outdated and patched.  She is accustomed to recycling and reusing, so it is difficult for her family to throw anything away, if simply because some day someone else might have a use for it.

The container was delivered on Monday afternoon.  I started tossing and tossing and tossing the next day.  By Wednesday evening, I had finished eliminating the junk from the backyard shed and the floor level of the garage.  That meant there was only one area left — the rafters of the garage.  I dreaded that task.  Not only was it dirty and dusty, but it was crammed with heavy boxes of books, old baby furniture, as well as a complete dirty remnant of carpet that had been stored there for the whole 23 years we occupied the house.

My wife finally decided to help me with that job, about halfway through the rafters.  I welcomed the assistance, tired of carting stuff down the ladder.  Thursday night, the task was finished, a few odds and ends tossed over the side of the full container.

That’s right.  FULL.  To the brim.  Full of junk.  Full of quite a few memories.  All delivered to the landfill.

March 31 comes next, the day we say good bye to the house.

I Have A Crush On A 29+

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That’s right.  You read it correctly.  I have a serious crush on a 29+.

Don’t be hating me.  After all, a crush is harmless, hurts no one unless it turns into obsession.  It could.

Her boyfriend let me ride her yesterday, a cushy, plush, effortless jaunt that gave me just enough taste to makes me want her more.  She belongs to him, though.  I will have to get my own.

If his name was Jessie, she would be Jessie’s girl.  Can we pretend his name IS Jessie?  I want to sing the song.

I’m already dreaming about her.  In my dreams we are gliding across sun filled fields of daisies, forever joined together, birds singing around us, guiding us into the rocks, escorting us into the woods.  Heaven on earth, the sweat glistening in all the right places.

I woke up in a pool of drool, my pillow soaked.

She has big ones.  I like big ones.  She is a 29+, gorgeous 29″ x 3″ balloons with perfect knobs.  I am in lust.

Her name is Salsa.  Salsa Deadwood SUS.  I want her.  I want her badly.

For Your Listening Pleasure…

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…the dulcet tones of STEVE?

Yes.  Steve.

This past Wednesday, I recorded a voice over at a tiny professional recording studio.  I walked in with a script in hand, was greeted by an energetic young brunette engineer and escorted to a little room, with a closet sized room in the corner that was lined with acoustic foam, a music stand, and an adjustable height microphone with a round spit shield in front of it.  She handed me a glass of water, asked me if I am claustrophobic (I lied and said no), gave me some instructions about how the session would go, then closed the door.  I could see her and multiple monitor screens, essential for me to follow each segment of the recording as we recorded the script in bits.

There was a choice to wear the headphones or not.  I chose to wear them — I wanted to hear my voice.  We began with a long sound check as the engineer monkeyed with the levels, brought out a little more of the bass in my voice.  I have to say, it was pretty cool to hear myself!

Breath control was more difficult than I anticipated.  I managed to make it through most of the takes without snorting in the microphone or breathing heavily like a deranged pervert.  There were a few repeated bits as I worked on inflection, as well as slowing down and adding pauses, cleaning up a few places where I slurred or dropped a pronunciation.  Some of the challenge for me is simply forgetting what is left of my southern Illinois accent.

I made it through 90 minutes, a bit tired when the session was finished.  The engineer seemed impressed, told me that I sound like the guy who narrates some of the How It’s Made videos.  That made me feel good.  However, when I listened to the finished product later on that night, I still felt happy about the job that I did on the voice over, but realized that I am far from professional.  It was a good experience, though.

The voice over was for the first of a series of product training videos the company I work for is producing.  My employer is based in Hungary and I was chosen because, and I quote, “Steve sounds very, very American”.  That’s a compliment, right?

If my voice over actually is used, I will post it here.  Here is the link to the audio files, if you are interested in hearing this dork’s voice — SteveSuckedAndItIsRecorded

 

 

The Quest Continues

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This blog is going to have a little side story in it that will cause you to scratch your head in doubt.  It will, if you are anything like me.  I am scratching my head also, but am seriously thinking about doing it for the practical benefit(s).  Soooooo… hold that thought.

The quest for an affordable paradise continues.  Unless something causes the house sale to crash and burn, I have until March 31 to find a place to live.  Now, don’t let that thought cause your stomach to knot, because I am not losing sleep over that prospect.  God gave me a brain, enough experience in life, to figure things out and to realize that there is a solution to this one.  Even if it means that I have to impose on a friend to sleep on their couch or commute from my brother’s house on the north shore of Chicago, an hour commute on a perfect traffic day, it will be OK.

My brother lives in a neighborhood that once was the housing and stables for Fort Sheridan in the Highwood/Highland Park area.  If I lived with him for a while, I wouldn’t be slumming it, as well as being able to enjoy the short walk to Lake Michigan and all of the bike paths in the area.

The house buyers presented their requests for repairs and credits for my house earlier this week and my lawyer has responded.  We have not received a response to our proposed changes to their requests, but I don’t think that there will be huge issues (did I just jinx myself?).  This past week, I started looking for contractors to get prices to make the necessary adjustments to my house.  That part is painful to this penny pincher, the credits and repairs likely going to be in the $3000-4000 range.  Yeah.  Ouch.  Most of that money is a credit for window replacement, the rest for mold remediation (that is expensive) and an electrician to update the fuse box.  I am debating how I am going to handle replacing some of the framing and drywall in the garage, possibly having some friends who rehab for Habitat for Humanity assist me with that one.  I only have so much cash right now.

Which reminds me — my wife dropped a little bomb on me last week.  She bought a car, from her sister, for our daughter about a year ago.  The price was $2500 for a nice little Nissan Versa.  I agreed to buying the car if my wife would pay for it.  I pay all of our bills from my pay and my wife pays only her car payment, as well as a doctor bill now and then.  I just didn’t have the spare change to pay for a car.  Guess what?  You probably already have guessed.  She hasn’t paid a penny to her sister.  My wife’s net pay is around $2500 a month.  A small amount of discipline would have allowed her to pay her sister for that car by now.  Sooooooo, my wife announced to me that she wants me to pay her sister for the car from the money we get from the sale of our house.  It’s going to look funny to my sister if we buy a car for our son and we haven’t paid her for our daughter’s car, she said.

It looks funny to me, too was my response.  The verdict is out on this one.  The I-don’t-have-to-be-a-nice-guy-any-more side of me wants to tell her to have fun dealing with her sister on this one.  The common sense side of me says that maintaining a cooperative atmosphere might be more important that a little bit of money.

I continue to try to buy a condo at the condos and villas of Emerald Green.  Early on in my search, I focused on Emerald Green because it’s affordable, nice, quiet, scenic, and extremely well maintained by a very active association.  It’s also only a mile away from where I have lived for the last 23 years, a place I dearly love.  I have failed on two attempts to buy a condo there.  Friday, I made an offer on another condo, using another real estate agent who is a friend and is motivated to be a hero for me.  He’s also extremely aggressive, something the guy who I was working with is not (but that guy was a great listing agent).  This one is looking good.  There is another offer besides mine, a cash offer, but my offer is the highest bid, as well as my agent really working on the seller’s agent.  This condo has a direct view of the river, something I am interested in simply because of the therapeutic value, something the months to come will require.

Here’s the story that is going to seem cockeyed to some.  Yesterday, I took a look at another condo in Emerald Green, one that isn’t yet for sale but will be soon.  The owner is the woman I dated seriously before my wife.  I bumped into her (not literally) at a stoplight in town a year or two ago, exchanged phone numbers, talked to her a little bit.  I called her out of the blue when it became clear that I would be looking at a place in Emerald Green, found out that she wants to buy a house, so I asked her if she would show me her place when it was ready.  Her place is in great shape, move in ready.  She owns it.  We could make the transaction without real estate agents.  When I shot her a price, her eyes lit up.  It was higher than she expected, the price I want to pay.

Here’s the kicker — I told her that I would have no problems with her taking her time to move out.  I would move into the spare bedroom in the mean time.  Funny thing is that I trust her.  She trusts me.  Of all the girls I dated before my wife, she was the most laid back and down to earth.. and it’s obvious to me that she hasn’t changed.  So, the idea that she could stick around until she is ready to move was not a bad thought to her.  It helps us both, gives me somewhere to go at the end of the month, gives her motivation to get moving on finding her house.  She would get things like a lawn mower, leaf blower, garden tools, fertilizer spreader, etc.. from me.  By the way, she is looking for a house because her 22 year old son wants to move in with her.

That’s my back up plan should I not win the bid on the condo that I am currently trying to get.  I am real close to having this little piece of the puzzle solved.

The quest for paradise continues.

Paradise Lost

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*Sigh*

Another one bites the dust.  The seller for the condo that I made an offer on last Friday accepted an offer that came in after mine.  Even though the condo would have required a lot of work, it was in a beautiful location that would have made the work worth it.  I am very disappointed, but, well, I am not defeated and remain optimistic.  At the moment, the condo development that I want to live in has nothing available.

I may not need to be in a hurry.  This evening, my real estate lawyer shared the letter from the lawyer representing the buyers for our house, regarding their requested modifications to the contract resulting from the walk through inspection they did last Saturday.

Bear with me, please.  I have never sold a house, so this stuff is new to me.  I know that some buyers try to take advantage of the inspection to get a better deal, so they make requests that can seem ridiculous.

Let me just supply this little tidbit — my house is around 32 years old (or more).  I know how well maintained it is, know that it has a new roof, new asphalt driveway, new faucets, new air conditioner and furnace, new carpet in some rooms, new master bedroom windows, new shed roof, freshly painted, new hose bib in the garage.  In other words, it took a three hour walk through inspection because they really had to search for stuff.  The only credit I am/was prepared to give was for 6 windows that are still the original windows.  The seals in those windows went bad and are recaulked, but they really need to be replaced.  If I wasn’t selling the house, I would replace those windows this year.  This place isn’t perfect, it’s not new after all, but I’m not patting myself on the back unnecessarily.  This place is in very good shape and is a nice deal for someone.

I am going to see what the lawyer says, but if the buyer sticks to their guns, they are not going to be buying my house.  The letter asks for eight modifications to the contract —

  1.  Repair or replace the fireplace.  They claim that it’s a gas log fireplace and wood was burned in it.  IT’S A WOOD BURNING FIREPLACE WITH A GAS STARTER, MORONS.  The fireplace is in good shape.  I told the lawyer I will not even consider this modification.
  2. They claim there is an “active” leak in the powder room bathroom sink.  There isn’t a leak, at all, never has been one.  These people must have been smoking pot during the inspection.
  3. The upper south corner of the garage has some damaged wood in the wall near the roof due to a leak that happened several years ago.  There is one two by four that should be replaced.  This is one of the few legit requests from the potential buyer.
  4. I am going to quote this one — “The furnace/hot water heater duct flue is not correctly secured”.  The duct work is two seasons old, new when we had the furnace replaced.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the duct, nothing loose, nothing cockeyed.  If I could have rolled my eyes in writing, I would have in my written response to my lawyer.
  5. “There is some mold present in the attic of the home” .  There is an inspection report that I have not seen yet.  The buyer wants mold remediation.  I could go up in the attic and wipe the few dime sized mold spots on the roof sheeting.. roof sheeting that was replaced LAST SEPTEMBER.  While I understand that mold is a hot item when buying a house these days, I have more mold in my refrigerator than in my attic.
  6. This item mentions credit for windows with broken seals and missing or damaged screens.  OK.  I haven’t seen what kind of credit is requested, but I am not going to agree to more than $4000-5000.  It’s really the only credit request that I will agree to.
  7. “Wiring for kitchen disposal is exposed and poses a safety hazard.  Buyers request a credit for repair”.  There is a one inch gap between the conduit and the terminal connections.  All that is required is an elbow to connect the conduit to the disposal.  If the credit request is more than $5, it will not be accepted.  Stupid.  Unnecessary.
  8. This one was regarding the fuse box in the garage, saying that it is not mounted correctly, is not properly secured or labelled.  This one is such total horse hockey that it’s not worth any consideration.

These buyers supposedly need to move in by the end of March because the house they are renting is under foreclosure.  I hope they enjoy their tent because all but two of the requested modifications will be rejected, maybe all if the credit requests are too greedy.

I know, I know.  Patience, little Stevie Sunshine.  All will be well.

We’ll see what my lawyer says.

 

 

The Mystery

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My blog title might be too mysterious.  Dramatic.  Pretentious?

*insert your cool sounding word here*

The house is sold, sort of.  We accepted an offer a week ago last Saturday, am in what must be one of the most frustrating holding patterns,.. and it’s a literal hold.  What is crazy is that I know that the people who made the offer need a house, need to be moved out of their house by the end of March.  Yet they spent over three hours scouring my house for defects with a home inspector this past Saturday.  For anyone who has experienced the tension of anticipation, the agony of waiting, you know what I am experiencing.  My house is 32 years old.  It’s not perfect.  I have been the person responsible for maintaining the place for the last 23 years.  I know what they should be asking me to fix or credit them for.

Or do I?  Three hours is a long time for an inspection.

It’s almost terrifying, this wait, this wondering what they are going to request.  Are they going to make a request that I can’t or won’t agree to?  Are they going to ask for too much of a credit?

I know the windows, except for the windows already replaced recently, are at the end of their useful life.  They work, but they are old.  I am already prepared to say yes if the buyers ask for a $5000 credit.  The roof was new last year, the driveway asphalt replaced in 2015, the furnace new in 2014, the air conditioner new in 2013.  Honestly, there is not much left except for a possibility of the mold that always occurs on the north facing side of a house in northern Illinois.

The numbskulls focused on the drywall I replaced myself last year in the garage.  It was an extremely amateur job, but it was adequate.  It was replaced for two reasons — the hose bib inside the garage was replaced, and there had been a leak in the roof between the front porch roof and the garage roof a few years ago, necessitating that the drywall in the front corner of the garage be replaced.  I heard the male part of the couple that is buying the house obsessing about it as I snooped while they were looking at the house.  My guess is that he thinks it will be a gold mine.

I hate this.  I hate the waiting.  Their requests have to be submitted to my lawyer, who will review and report.  I did not hear anything today.

In the meantime, I have taken action to move along and prepare for where I will live if the house closes March 31 (like it should).  There is a condo development close to where I live now that I have focused on.  The prices are reasonable, the condos, although close to forty years old, are very nice.  There is a very strong, active, condominium association there.  The condo models that I am interested in are a 1024 sq ft, two bedroom, one bath layout with two large patio doors across the front, access to an awesome patio.  Each model has a large wood burning fireplace.  The kitchen is a galley kitchen, eat in , with another patio door that opens out to the deck/patio.  Each condo has a private one car garage.  It has been tough finding a place there.  The prices are great and the location is incredible.  When a condo comes available, it gets snatched up.

Except for one.  One solitary condo at the back of the complex.  It has been listed as a short sale for 82 days, enough that the asking price came down another $5000 last week.  That was enough to cause me to take a look.

The location alone is worth it.  It’s at the back of the complex, overlooks a meadow that borders the DuPage river.  The view from the deck will be beautiful and unobstructed, no chance that anything will ever be built behind the building.  That alone is worth buying the condo.

And that is what I am banking on.  The price is around $30,000 less that any of the condos that have been sold there, because it is an absolute pit.  All flooring, all windows, even the patio doors will need to be replaced.  It’s bad.  The furnace looks to be original, barely functional.  My best estimate is around $16,000 to make the place inhabitable.

This crazy man made an offer, one that is being considered.  I figure that working on the place will keep me occupied enough to dull the pain of the final separation before divorce.  When the condo is done, it will be beautiful.. but it will take a lot of work.

Mysteries.  Unknown.  A part of me wants to know what is going to happen, a large part of me doesn’t want to know.  I want to be surprised and I hope it will be pleasant!emerald-condo-view

 

Cat Pee Condos

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I used to ride a bicycle event in the Carolinas called The Assault on Mount Mitchell.  The event is a lottery only ride, so in order to participate one has to sign up, then wait to see if you get a ticket for the ride.  There are reasons for limiting the number of participants — road congestion on the Blue Ridge Parkway, transportation from the summit back to the starting point, making sure all participants are accounted for on the difficult and demanding ride.  All riders wear a chipped ankle bracelet which records the time from start to finish and confirms that the rider has finished.  I miss the event, one I completed twice out of the three times attempted.  Each attempt is a story in itself, with challenges both similar and unique to the other attempts.

The Assault, at least when I used to ride it, was in May, early in the riding season and difficult for a northern USA flatlander such as myself to train for.  That just made surviving the ride even more special when I did finish.  There is more than 10,000 feet of vertical ascent over the 102 mile course, most of it at the last part of the ride, the last eight miles usually completed in the freezing cold and rain, on a grade that feels like it is practically straight up.   That part of the ride, the summit, is actually above the clouds.

I think that I ride tours like the Assault for the memories that remind me of who I am.  Each memory blends with pain, persistence, and incredible joy — joy that can only be experienced by accepting the pain.  Even on the ride that I couldn’t complete, the ride where I sat in the middle of the road five miles from the summit, mentally fried, freezing water rushing past me as the rain poured down, I relish the memory.  I learned a lot from that defeat, proud that I made it as far as I made it, even more proud that I learned a little more about overcoming my pain that day.  The following years, instead of dropping to the road in resignation, I got back on the bike and kept the pedals turning until I reached the goal.

That’s the key, keep the pedals turning.  The Assault turns up the Blue Ridge Parkway after the 80 mile mark at Marion, NC and gets difficult very quickly.  There is a switchback section that precedes the climb to the Parkway where the riders behind you can be viewed below you.  It’s tough.  Once on the Parkway, 10 miles or so from the top, there is a place where you can stop, see where you have been and see the summit — the goal.  What preceded is a mere speck, truly a long ways off, and the summit seems so close.  Yet the most difficult part of the ride is yet to come and it can take a long time to reach, especially if you are not ready for a steep and gut wrenching climb.

The parallel to life is obvious.  Do I need to say more?  I feel right now like I am at that point where I can see where I have been, a long way behind me, and I can get a glimpse of where I am going.  I know that in order to make it, it’s going to be accomplished one step, one pedal stroke at a time.

Today’s blog is an example of why one should not write the title before the blog.

By the way, I put my favorite pair of shoes on this morning in the dark.  My left shoe had these funny hard white spots on them.  What the heck?  Where did they come from?  In the light, I realized what happened.  When I made the onion gravy for my pork chops last night, some of the flour/milk mix from the plastic container dripped on my shoes.  Oops.20170221_080539

Moving On

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Patience and perseverance combined with sweat.  Life often requires all three, even when it seems like there are those who have everything handed to them.  Those more often than not learn that lesson the hard way.  Whether it be a task, a relationship, a car, or your body, in order to make it through it’s going to take the willingness to push through what seems too difficult, unbearably hard.  More often than not, you are going to make it.

After working my tail off since this first week of November on my house, it finally was ready to list for sale.  This past Wednesday evening, the listing went live (click the link to see the details).  There was a showing Thursday afternoon, Friday morning, and yesterday morning (Saturday).

Yesterday’s showing started at 10 AM.  It was a gorgeous day, perfect for a singletrack ride, so I went out early, planning to get home a little after 11.  When I pulled around the corner at 11:15, there were still cars parked in front of the cars, so I drove around the block, parked in front of my neighbor’s house and joined him in his man cave garage to listen to the young couple touring the outside of my house with a realtor.

Man :  The porch roof must be hollow? 

Realtor:  I assume so.  It says here that the roof was new in 2016.  Driveway was new in 2015.

Woman:  Yeah, it looks really good.

I smiled as I listened.  The young couple had met the realtor at my house, arrived in separate cars (relatively new compact Chevrolets).  They were there specifically to look at my house.  They stayed until almost noon.  This early thirties couple was seriously looking at my house.

Miriam and I were in our early thirties when we bought the house.  Childless at the time.. just like this young couple.  When the report came back from our realtor, I found out that the couple was preapproved for an FHA mortgage, so our house would be their first house.  They are currently renting a house, were just informed by their landlord that the house they are renting is under foreclosure.  Our house is in a quiet neighborhood, bustling with active and friendly families, in one of the most desirable school districts in the west suburbs of Chicago.  As it was for us, our house will be perfect for the young couple.

Our realtor sent an email to me around 2:30 PM.. with congratulations and a formal offer included as an email attachment.  The couple had extended an offer, close to our asking price, with a request for closing cost credit and a home warranty.  Miriam and I sat down to discuss the offer, go over our thoughts together, one of the things we actually do well as a couple.  She didn’t like that the closing cost credit was potentially $5000 and that the offer was $5000 less than our asking price.  I simply wanted to know the details of the home warranty.

I put my phone on speaker when our realtor called, so Miriam could participate in the call.  He answered our questions, explained that the home warranty was $500 and for a year, basically insurance that would insure that things like the water heater or furnace or windows would be replaced by the policy if they needed to be replaced.  He suggested a counter offer, accepting the closing cost credit but only if the asking price was accepted, and requesting an additional $1000 of earnest money.

They accepted.  The closing is March 31.

Our discussion moved to the next step — when would we start the divorce?  Logically, it should start after March 31, when we each would have money from the sale of the house to retain a lawyer.

Miriam left to take care of some business shortly after the phone call with the realtor.  Nate was playing golf.  I stood in the freshly painted living room of my house, the afternoon sun casting a glow on the harvest gold walls of the living and dining room.  These people were going to get a nice house, one that I know I have worked hard to maintain over the years (not just the past few months).  I stood there for a while, memories washing over me as I thought of everything that had happened in that room alone.  We made at least one of our children in front of a blazing fire in the fireplace.  Our children crawled on the carpet at my feet.  I laughed as I remembered interviewing my little red head, melted chocolate chips smeared across her face, as I tested our new video camera, then a few years later as she lovingly cuddled her first kitten in that same chair.  Nate building blanket forts using the cushions of the couch and love seat.  Family dinners, the dining room and living room and kitchen full of warmth.  Her sisters gathered around the dining room table, singing songs in Portugeuse as they reminisced their childhood.  My brothers in law and I sat around that same table, teaching our missionary father in law to play cards, much to the shock of our pious spouses.  There were those times chasing our first dog child around that table, trying to get him in house cage so we could leave the house, or the time when I came home as that same dog child sprang up on that table and took a defiant dump in the middle of the table (he was a terrier, so any terrier owner probably has similar memories).  I pictured that same terrier patiently being dressed up by our toddler daughter, complete with a bonnet, placed in a doll stroller, and being pushed like a baby around the house.

Almost 23 years of memories are in that house.

I hope those memories stay in that house, greet the new owners, live on as they create new memories of their own.

March 31 will be here soon.  My life is changing.  It’s getting real.